By Alex Spieth
It’s your fave indie filmmaker, Alex Spieth. When last we spoke, I was in the midst of season two of my first series ‘Blank My Life’. I spoke to you about the trials and tribulations of casting a TV Boyfriend (woe was me!) But, now, I am back by popular demand to speak to you about the creation and release of my newest series ‘86’d’ which was executive produced and fully funded by BRIC TV, an Emmy-winning nonprofit community TV channel.
In 2019, my team and I released the final season of Blank, which followed a young woman haunted by the ghost of her dead best friend in a spooky small town in Ohio. It was a huge labor of love by all parties, and each of the core creatives put all of their soul in the project. After we released the series, I felt deflated and uncertain what to do next. I had put all of my heart into something, and now it was over.
For years now, Blank’s episodes had been streaming on BRIC TV’s community access channel, so the organization was familiar with my writing and work. I had pushed for them to produce the final season of Blank, but as their content is focused on Brooklyn-based stories, the season wasn’t a fit for them. However, after the final season of Blank was released, the scripted team approached me about developing a new series with them.
The process of pitching was thorough. I was asked to pitch 10 ideas, and the BRIC TV team picked the two they were most excited about. One was about a borderline alcoholic-Manhattanite who must navigate her way to deep Brooklyn to take photographs of her best friend’s engagement. The other was about a group of restaurant workers who develop a scheme to keep their restaurant alive. Then I was asked to develop two one-sheets for each idea. While I liked both, I was very interested in doing an ensemble comedy, and pushed hard to move forward with the restaurant concept. Then I was asked to turn in a full deck, pilot, and proposed budget.
Eventually, I received the green light in April of 2019. The restaurant concept, now called 86’d, was a go! As I moved into writing the entire series, the concept quickly developed. 86’d was a salty, comedic mini series about a group of restaurant workers who decide to stage a hold-up to save their failing business. The principal cast was six of the restaurant’s employees: Monica (the recent inheritor of Downstream Bar in Brooklyn), Miri (the long-suffering floor manager), Oge (an actor/server), Chris (a server who is desperate to find a boyfriend before his mother dies), Omar (the sexy bartender), and Jorge (the loyal busser). The series confronts the question of, “How far will you go to keep your dream alive?” in a funny and irreverent way.
We were slated to begin shooting in mid July. It felt like the quickest process I have ever been in, and I felt shocked how much it seemed to come together by magic. This was the first time I had worked with a professional producer, and it changed the way we were able to work. All of a sudden, I had time to focus on the acting, as we had more people to fill the shoes of the production. In the past, I had occupied 25 hats and felt that I needed to be in charge of and know every detail.
However, now, I realized the power of delegation. My director, cinematographer, scenic designer, costumer, editor, and producer were again working incredibly seamlessly, and it was the first time going into production that I felt….relaxed? What was this feeling? Where I’m not about to have a heart attack every second? Could this be….a sustainable way of creating?
Throughout production, issues arose (as they are want to do), and, each time, the team dealt with them swiftly and effectively. Working with BRIC was a total dream. They were the most amazing amount of hands-on and hands-off. They really trusted their creators to bring the fullest version of the product to the table, and I’m very glad to have had the chance to work with them. By the end of 2019, the episodes were cut finished, signed, sealed, delivered, their yours! My team had worked an incredibly ambitious schedule to get it all done, and I felt it had paid off royally. I was so incredibly proud of the results and work that had gone into it.
Then, a little ditty called COVID-19 came rolling into the station. And, all filmmakers near and far thought, now what? What do I do with this product? Do I wait? Do I release? What’s the better thing to do? As I consulted PR folks and other filmmakers, everyone had the same answer…which roughly translated to “Who knows?” And, no one did. So, I waited. I waited for signs and hoped that there would be a clear answer on what to do with this bomb-ass freakin’ series. I decided to not wait on releasing 86’d any longer.
I don’t think that anyone should feel the need to create during the pandemic. Take care of yourself, be easy, and know that you are loved. Pick up some yoga, hit a ping pong ball around your apartment, and turn on ‘Tiger King’ again. Who knows what you will learn on this viewing? I am working my way through all the Survivor seasons, and let me tell you: It’s a goddamn delight.
My own personal anxieties make me want to feel like I’m still moving forward. I’ve written a lot over the past year. Most of the scripts I’ve written are horrible! They have no throughlines! Huge character inconsistencies! Lots of bad lines! Lots of the plots have to do with dudes not being able to perform sexually! Are these scripts that will help the world? Probably not. But, it has helped me to write. If it helps you, go for it. If not, Survivor is streamable on CBS.com or Hulu.
In a time of weirdness and fear, let’s let the most amazing memories of creation shine. I’m so proud of the series, and hope you enjoy it as well. The series is now streamable via BRIC’s youtube channel. Which you can find right here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLX1W43ZgDnWEC_hHFXOlPFOCdcJUTbIqY. Drop a line, give some love, keep the feedback coming constantly! We love to hear from you, dear fans!
Alex Spieth is an actor, writer, and director. Her most recent work includes the original series, “86’d”, a dark comedy she wrote, created, and starred in. The series, which premiered in spring of 2021, was produced by BRIC TV. She’s the writer, creator, and star of the original series “Blank My Life”, which spans 4 seasons, 30 episodes, and 20 locations. Currently, Alex is in pre-production for her first feature. Orchard Project Participant. Carnegie Mellon Grad.